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JOHN LAWSON Perhaps joyous is the wrong word to use when describing Threshold Theatre's sparkling production.But such is the exuberance and pizzazz of this fine company that even the darkest moments of this story of legendary pools winner Viv Nicholson are coloured with a hint of joy.

JOHN LAWSON

Perhaps joyous is the wrong word to use when describing Threshold Theatre's sparkling production.

But such is the exuberance and pizzazz of this fine company that even the darkest moments of this story of legendary pools winner Viv Nicholson are coloured with a hint of joy.

It is perhaps only right, for despite the despair in her life, Nicholson has remained a survivor - a woman whose lust for life has overcome her rags to riches to rags story.

It was fitting therefore that Viv herself should have been in the audience to watch the first night of this East Anglian amateur premiere.

Only one other amateur group nationwide has so far produced Steve Brown and Justin Greene's musically demanding and emotionally draining show - and Viv is to help direct a forthcoming production in Sheffield.

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And is it presumptious to suggest that she will have drawn some pointers from director Greg Fitch's interpretation?

The leading characters were all beautifully drawn.

The older Viv (Andrea Ferguson), who acts as narrator, stands world-weary but unbowed at the side of the stage almost throughout.

Ferguson has real presence and a great voice which blends beautifully in duet with her younger self (Sara Crowley) as the story unfolds in flashback.

And there is great chemistry between Crowley and Andy Lofthouse as the tragic Keith, the love of Viv's life, who died in a car crash shortly after their £152,000 pools win of 1961.

Ian Chisholm reminds me - both physically and in his performance - of Pete Postlethwaite as Viv's abusive drunken father, with Val Lofthouse also giving strong support as Viv's mum.

There are some powerful and thought provoking songs in Brown's great score but my personal favourites are the ensemble numbers John Collier and the title song - well supported by Esther Thirkettle's punchy seven-piece band - which both show off the work of choreographers Jean and Jayne Cator to the full.

Their ceaseless movement keep the show at full pace from start to finish and it thoroughly deserved its first night standing ovation and plaudits from the stage from a clearly emotional Viv.

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